The question of whether an employer can discipline an employee for misconduct outside of work is a complex one that is governed by several different laws and regulations in the United Kingdom. One important piece of legislation to consider in this context is the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance.
The ACAS Code sets out the principles that employers should follow when dealing with disciplinary issues in the workplace. One key principle outlined in the Code is that employers should only take disciplinary action against an employee if the misconduct in question “affects the business or other employees” or if it “brings the employer or business into disrepute.” This suggests that an employer may be able to discipline an employee for misconduct outside of work if it can be demonstrated that the misconduct in question had a negative impact on the business or the reputation of the employer.
However, it’s important to note that the ACAS Code is not legally binding and failure to follow it does not, by itself, make a dismissal unfair. Nevertheless, if an employee is dismissed, and an Employment Tribunal finds that the disciplinary process was not followed, this will usually lead to an increase in the compensation that the Tribunal award. The code is considered by the court as an important guidance
Another important legal consideration is the Human Rights Act 1998, which guarantees an individual’s right to respect for private life, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of assembly and association, and freedom of religion or belief. This means that an employer must have a good reason for disciplining an employee for conduct outside of work and must consider whether disciplinary action would be a proportionate response to the misconduct in question.
In the case of social media, Employers have the right to monitor employee’s activity on their own devices, when the usage is for work-related purpose. Employers also has the right to take disciplinary action if the employee breaks the company’s social media policies or if it impacts their work negatively or the reputation of the company.
It’s important for employers to have clear and specific policies in place that outline what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable conduct, both in and outside of the workplace. They should also have clear procedures for dealing with disciplinary issues and should ensure that all decisions are made fairly and consistently.
In summary, an employer in the UK can discipline an employee for misconduct outside of work, but they must be able to demonstrate that the misconduct in question had a negative impact on the business or the reputation of the employer, and that disciplinary action is a proportionate response to the misconduct in question. Employers should also consider the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance and Human Rights Act 1998 and make sure that the discipline process is carried out fairly, consistently, and transparently.
It’s important to note that these laws and regulations are subject to change and should be interpreted and applied in light of current case law and guidance from relevant regulatory bodies. Additionally, an employer should have a clear and well-communicated policy outlining the acceptable standards of behavior in and outside of the workplace.